‘Scorecard’ shows which countries protect wildlife from illegal trade - and which don't
23 July 2012
Our new ‘Wildlife Crime Scorecard’ shows how the survival of wild rhinos, tigers and elephants is being threatened by poor performances of key countries. As governments gather at the CITES meeting in Geneva this week to discuss wildlife trade issues, our analysis rates 23 of the top African and Asian nations facing high levels of poaching and trafficking in ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.
Our Wildlife Crime Scorecard report assesses the recent performance of 23 countries that are considered to be either ‘range’ (where the targeted animals live), ‘transit’ (part of smuggling routes) or ‘consumer’ (the end destination) countries.
The scorecard rates the countries using a colour-coding system for each animal - from green (meaning some progress has been made), via yellow, to red (which means failing on key aspects of compliance and enforcement of wildlife protection laws).
We found that illegal trade persists in virtually all 23 countries reviewed - but the scorecard differentiates between countries where it is actively being countered from those where current efforts are entirely inadequate.
Among the worst performers is Vietnam, which received two red scores for rhinos and tigers. Vietnam is identified in the report as the top destination country for rhino horn, which has fuelled a poaching crisis in South Africa (which itself receives a yellow score for rhinos).
A record 448 South African rhinos were killed for their horns in 2011, and an even more shocking 262 already this year.
According to the report, a large number of Vietnamese - including diplomats - have been arrested for involvement in acquiring rhino horns illegally in South Africa.
It’s time for Vietnam to face the fact that its illegal consumption of rhino horn is driving the widespread poaching of rhinos in Africa. It must crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade.
Vietnam should review its penalties and immediately curtail retail markets, including Internet advertising for horn.
Inadequate enforcement of domestic ivory markets in China is also highlighted in the report. China receives a yellow score for elephants, indicating a failure by the country to effectively police its legal ivory markets.
The report says: “The ongoing flow of large volumes of illegal ivory to China suggests that such ivory may be moving into legal ivory trade channels”.
China is urged to dramatically and consistently improve its enforcement controls for ivory and to communicate to Chinese nationals in Africa that anyone caught importing illegal wildlife products into China would be prosecuted, and if convicted, severely penalised.
Thailand receives a red score for its failure to close a legal loophole that makes it easy for retailers to sell ivory from poached African elephants. It’s being openly sold in up-scale boutiques that cater to unsuspecting tourists.
Governments will be taking up this troubling issue this week at the CITES meeting. So far Thailand has not responded adequately to concerns and, with the amount of ivory of uncertain origin in circulation, the only credible option at this stage is a ban on ivory trade.
Elephant poaching is at crisis levels in Central Africa, a region where rhinos have been declared extinct - mostly likely due to poaching.
Last year saw the highest elephant poaching rates across the continent since records began. Early this year hundreds of elephants were killed in a single incident in a Cameroon national park.
Given the escalation of elephant poaching in Africa and the increased levels of organised crime involved in the trade, our report makes it clear the situation is now critical.
Wildlife crime not only poses a threat to animals, but is a risk to people, territorial integrity, stability and rule of law.
Regional cooperation is needed in Central Africa to counter the flows of illegal ivory and arms spilling across borders.
The fight-back against illegal wildlife trade
We commend Central African governments for signing a regional wildlife law enforcement plan and we urge them to make implementing it a top priority, allocating enough resources to the plan and increasing successful prosecutions of those implicated in poaching or illegal trade.
Although most Central African countries receive yellow or red scores for elephants, there are some encouraging signs.
Last month Gabon burned its entire ivory stockpile, to ensure that no tusks would leak into the illegal trade, and President Ali Bongo committed to both increasing protection in the country’s parks and ensuring that those committing wildlife crimes are prosecuted and sent to prison.
Other bright spots from the report are green scores for India and Nepal for each of the three species groups.
In 2011, Nepal celebrated a year without any rhino poaching incidents, which was largely attributed to improvements in anti-poaching and other law enforcement efforts.
WWF is about to launch a new global campaign to fight illegal wildlife trade, which has been putting the future of elephants, rhinos and tigers at risk. More details coming soon...
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